Anthropology, Biography, History, Reviews

Fulford on Khuri, An Invitation to Laughter

jacket imageRobert Fulford wrote an article in Canada’s National Post on Fuad I. Kuri and his posthumously published memoir An Invitation to Laughter: A Lebanese Anthropologist in the Arab World. A Christian Lebanese, Khuri offers in his unusual autobiography both an insider’s and an outsider’s perspective on life in Lebanon, often fraught with contradictions, and of course, laughter.
Khuri entertains and informs with clever insights into such issues as the mentality of Arabs toward women, eating habits of the Arab world, the impact of Islam on West Africa, and the extravagant lifestyles of wealthy Arabs as Fulford writes in the Post:

Laughter is not the first sound that comes to mind when someone mentions Arabia. As Khuri wrote, “In Arab culture, laughing loudly in public demeans one’s character.” … [But] Khuri was not an ordinary Arab, or an ordinary anthropologist. Laughter was frequently his response to the societies he studied. He investigated African villagers and other traditional subjects, but he loved studying prosperous societies.… Khuri, it’s clear, loved to follow the rather over-assertive habits of rich Arabs who wanted to display their wealth. He mentions an Arab who asked that Harrods department store in London be closed so that his wife could shop in private. (Michael Jackson did him one better by closing Tokyo Disneyland for a day of fun with his entourage.) Khuri knew of Arabs using mink coats as bathrobes. When he took a ride on a private plane he discovered that even the toilet handle was gold.

A profound appreciation for humor in the study of cultures is a distinctive theme of An Invitation to Laughter, and one that makes this book a must read for anyone interested in the culture of the Middle East and the discipline of anthropology